Caring for Our Wormy Friends

One of our most popular Veggie U projects is creating a classroom worm farm.  It’s a fun way for kids to experience the complete the life cycle of plants and to learn about the components of healthy soil.

As we like to say, healthy soil = healthy plants= healthy kids!

We send each Veggie U classroom a dozen California red wiggler worms that are harvested from our worm bin kept in a closet here at Veggie U HQ. Our volunteers harvest, pack and ship around 9,000 worms during a typical school year.  Recently, our Wormy Tuesday volunteers got 180 dozen worms ready to take up residence in their 2 liter soda bottle homes in Cleveland public schools.

Creating a soda bottle worm farm is fun family activity, too!  You will need a handful of gravel for drainage, about 2 cups of potting soil, some shredded office or newspaper (avoid anything shiny or coated), and a clean, 2 liter soda bottle. California red wiggler (composting) worms can be purchased in small numbers at pet stores. Download the directions for making a soda bottle worm farm.

Just a few pointers for a healthy worm farm:

  • In nature, red wiggler worms live in damp rotting leaves or wood. Since all worms breathe through their skin, their environment must be moist for them to be able to breathe. If a worm’s skin dries out, it will die. Your worm farm should never be dry. It will definitely feel moist but when you squeeze it, no water should drip out. Too much moisture in your worm farm can make it smelly and muddy looking. It also reduces the amount of available oxygen for your worms. This can easily be fixed by adding a handful of shredded office or newspaper (avoid anything shiny or coated) and mix it into the soil to soak up the excess moisture.
  • You can feed your worm farm small amounts of vegetable scraps.  Even though they love fruit scraps, feeding worms exclusively vegetables will lessen the possibility of attracting fruit flies to your farm.  Also, try to avoid onions and citrus peels-- worms don't like them.

Have fun with your farm!  Try these mini experiments to get your children hooked on worm composting:

  • In a healthy worm farm, your worms will reproduce! Identify an adult worm, a baby worm, and an egg.
  • Do a “what do red worms like to eat more?” experiment. Place two foods in the bin and see what they eat first.
  • Conduct a worm head count or worm census. Carefully empty out the soil and count each worm that you find. Return them to their farm. Repeat after a month or so to see how the population changes.
  • Worm Stats! Measure the length and weight of one worm
  • Time them to see how fast they eat. Add some veggie food waste and then see how long it takes your worms to consume it.
  • Use the worm compost (worm poop!) to grow some vegetables in a garden. Use vermicompost on some plants and none on others to see the difference it makes.

WormFarmphoto  WormFarmphoto2

Our volunteers "wrangled" hundreds of worms recently at Veggie U HQ to send to 180 Cleveland classrooms.

 

By Susan Fain